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Sapele Flower Petal BackStory
Sapele Flower Petal Wall Shelf

I grew up in rural Ohio where we had a small orchard, and the first thing I saw upon wakening every morning was a pear tree from my window. I was fascinated by the fluttering of the leaves and the change of the leaf colors subject to the morning sky’s complexion. My parents made sure I would know these trees well, for it was my responsibility to prune, pick, and rake, which I did begrudgingly as only a teenager can, but am now eternally grateful for the lessons learned. This is where my enchantment with nature’s small wonders commenced.

My first Leaf Table and Apple Table came about early in my career during the 1980s. I would come back to those themes off and on over the next two decades but did not focus on them. It wasn’t until I went to an art conference in 1999 and was fortuitously seated next to one of the most influential museum curators of that time. We didn’t talk about art, but when we got up to leave, he said, "I know your work, Mark, and you tend to be all over the place. Pick one or two series and make them your signature".  I listened and concentrated on the Fruit Series and the Leaf-Flower series. His advice served me well.

The Sapele Flower Petal Shelf is the continuing exploration of the leaf-flower theme and is a cross-pollination of the Marilyn Monroe Shelf with the Paganini Wall Flower Sculpture. It is the first flower-leaf shelf where I introduced the vein detail along the stem’s length. I’ve stayed away from ornamentation in my work but had already completed three different stems, but they didn’t feel or look right. I have a library of art monographs in my office, and the book that kept staring at me was the photography of Karl Blossfeldt. I leafed through the pages and finally found the solution for the fourth and final stem.

The Sapele Flower Petal Shelf was created over seven months. Once the large blanks were laminated, the rough sculpting went rapidly, but the process slowed as the piece took shape. The shaping and detailing of the petal’s top were emotionally taxing and I could work on the piece for only two or three hours at a time and then moved on to other work in the studio.

Every time I finish a leaf or flower piece, I tell myself, never again, but as I was building the Sapele Flower Petal shelf I realized I must do a Flower Petal Hall Table using the stem motif for the legs. It’s going to be a wonderful piece and will start on the table around the spring of 2023.

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